You win some and lose some with the new iPhone SE (2020)
Last month, Apple launched the new iPhone SE to some huge fanfare. The original iPhone SE originally debuted in March 2016 and had the same physical design as the iPhone 5 and 5s, so it had the flat chamfered edges (that many of us love), the Home button, and the perfect one-handed 4-inch screen size.
The new iPhone SE that launched in 2020 is the revival of this fan-favorite iPhone, but aside from keeping the Home button, it's not quite what a lot of original SE fans wanted. The new iPhone SE recycles the old iPhone 8 body, so it has a 4.7-inch screen. Even though the 4.7-inch screen is the smallest size that Apple offers right now, it's not as manageable in one-hand as the old 4-inch size. The new iPhone SE also packs in the A13 Bionic chip that is found in the iPhone 11 line, and a single camera that works even better than the iPhone XR with Portrait Mode.
And the best part about the new iPhone SE is the price. It's offering a tremendous value since it only starts at $399. But fans of the original iPhone SE didn't like the device just because it was the most affordable iPhone — they loved it because of the 4-inch size.
The official death of the 4-inch phone
It appears to be a thing of the past now, but several years ago, having small phones was all the rage. The original iPhone that started it all only had a 3.5-inch screen, which was too small, but the 4-inch size, which started with the iPhone 4 era, felt like that perfect sweet spot. It gave you enough information on the screen at once, typing one-handed was a breeze as you held on to something else, such as your morning coffee, and it fit nicely in your front pants pocket (even skinny jeans!)
After the iPhone 5 series, the iPhone 6 started the 4.7-inch size, which we currently still have thanks to the 2020 iPhone SE. But everything else is way bigger. The iPhone 11 Pro is the smallest of the iPhone 11 line at 5.8-inches, the regular iPhone 11 is 6.1-inches, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max is a whopping 6.5-inches.
Right now, I own the iPhone 11 Pro, because it's the smallest size of the higher-end offerings from Apple. But despite the "small" size, my hands still cramp up after prolonged use, and I often need both hands to type or navigate because it's impossible for me to reach the upper corners with my thumbs. And as much as I used to love carrying my phone in the front pocket back when I had the iPhone 5 and 5s, I pretty much just always slide my iPhone in my back pocket these days (since the iPhone 6). Technically, I can fit my iPhone 11 Pro in my front jeans pocket, but it feels bulky and uncomfortable.
And it's not just Apple who has killed off the 4-inch smartphone. If you take a look at Android offerings, you won't find a 4-inch size anymore. All the new flagships and lower-end models are all in the 5-6-inch range, just like the iPhone. We're just living in the age of "go big or go home," even though that doesn't work best for everyone.
The first-generation iPhone SE became its own thing, its own "brand," so-to-speak. It debuted in March 2016, in-between the launches of the iPhone 6s/6s Plus and iPhone 7/7 Plus. The iPhone SE offered those who wanted to continue using a small phone a choice while the rest of the world was moving towards bigger phones. People wanted a small, one-handed iPhone, and the 4-inch iPhone SE was it.
But now that 4-inch iPhone SE is dead.
The new iPhone SE is about some give-and-take
Four years after the original iPhone SE, Apple has re-launched the iPhone SE, though it's not the same as we last remember it. The small, perfect 4-inch form factor is gone, there's no more Rose Gold color option, and those chamfered edges? Buh-bye! The reasons we loved the original iPhone SE have been replaced, and unfortunately, it doesn't look like we'll be getting it back anytime soon.
But that's alright — the 2020 iPhone SE may not be what fans originally wanted, but it's proven to be a new favorite among many, including our own Lory Gil. She was a die-hard fan of the original iPhone SE, but praised the 2nd-generation iPhone SE in her review.
It's all about a little give-and-take. Apple is giving us a future-proof device that still retains the Home button with Touch ID (useful right now since Face ID isn't the best with a face mask on), the A13 Bionic chip with Neural Engine for blazing-fast processing power, and a single-lens camera that has a dual-pixel version of Portrait Mode with Portrait Lighting that's even better than on an iPhone XR. And all of this starts at $399, which is a huge value. Plus, you get that awesome PRODUCT(RED) color as an option.
I think that the benefits of the new iPhone SE outweigh the cons, which are no more 4-inch size and lack of those beautiful and flat chamfered edges. Honestly, it's highly doubtful that we'll ever see the return of a 4-inch iPhone, so if you've been holding out because of that, well, I don't think anything's going to change about that soon — heck, it took four years before we got a new iPhone SE at all. So if you've been waiting for the return of the iPhone SE, just grab yourself the new 2020 iPhone SE, because it's about as good as it's going to get.
Are you happy with the new iPhone SE?
I miss the 4-inch form factor as much as everyone else, but sometimes you just have to let things go. The new iPhone SE is definitely a fantastic buy, so if you've been holding out for the iPhone SE revival, or just want a great value iPhone that's going to be future-proof for a few years, it's time to pick one up.
The iPhone for everyone
Powerful features at a budget friendly price
The iPhone SE (2020) packs in the A13 Bionic chip with Neural Engine from the iPhone 11 line into the body of an iPhone 8, and you get even better camera capabilities than the iPhone XR. With the price, it's Apple's most affordable iPhone.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.
I’ve owned quite a few phones, including the Note 8, the Pixel 3, and the iPhone 8 Plus, and the 2020 SE is still the best phone I’ve owned.
That's great to hear! I would love to get the new SE but in my case, it would be a downgrade from the 11 Pro I'm currently using! It would be a good backup device for me though :) Thanks for reading!
It sounds like the iPhone 12 will be the new SE while the SE 2020 is really the iPhone 8+.
I just took advantage of T-Mobile's memorial day trade-in deal and got a new SE for free. I think of it not so much as an inexpensive iPhone but instead as the only small premium phone available now. I had an s10e before this for the same reason, it wasn't huge. The SE is easy to hold and doesn't make me feel like I have a brick in my pocket. And its fast. The low price is just icing on the cake.